Utah Jazz: Sloan long ago moved on from 1998

Published: Thursday, June 19 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

The 2008 NBA finals are done, Boston has won, and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan won't go back and watch the replays.

Just like he hasn't watched a second showing of the 1998 NBA finals, in which Sloan's Utah team lost 10 years ago to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Sloan, in fact, has never even watched footage of the controversial series-ending Game 6 of those '98 finals.

That's the one in which referee Dick Bavetta — subject of questions to other NBA referees from federal investigators following up on claims of impropriety made by disgraced ref and convicted felon Tim Donaghy — made a couple of decisions that to this day continue to be discussed and debated by disgruntled Jazz faithful.

"You could drive yourself crazy with stuff like that," Sloan said earlier this week, the morning after the 10th anniversary of that Game 6. "So what do you do about it? You go on about your business.

"It's like feeling sorry for yourself when (now-retired Jazz stars) John (Stockton) and Karl (Malone) left. It's the same deal. You have to go ahead and move on with your job and forget that. We're still here trying to work and do the best we can to try to get better.

"If you're gonna live your life on things like that," the 20-season-long Jazz coach added, "then you're gonna be pretty miserable."

It's all water under the bridge, in other words, in Sloan's world.

"That's all you can do," he said. "That's the way I looked at it. Yeah, we were upset and thinking, 'Yeah, maybe things should have gone our way.' But that's part of life, I guess. You have to live with it and go on. You're not gonna change it."

That includes the Jazz-Bulls Game 6 calls by Bavetta, who also was one of three refs who worked the 2002 NBA Western Conference finals Game 6 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.

Bavetta, a former New Yorker now living in Florida, just concluded his 33rd NBA season as referee.

Another was Bob Delaney, a highly decorated former New Jersey State Police undercover agent who once infiltrated the mob (he wrote a book about the experience that was released earlier this year, "Covert") — and someone who has his share of on-court disagreements with Sloan, including a 1993 incident in which Sloan was suspended one game for bumping Delaney.

According to a letter filed last week to a federal judge in New York from an attorney for Donaghy — who faces up to 33 months in federal prison when sentenced July 14 for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on NBA games himself — two referees, so-called "company men," manipulated the outcome of that Lakers-Kings game with calls and non-calls to force a deciding and revenue-generating Game 7 in that series.

Bavetta has not spoken publicly about the matter since then, as active NBA refs frequently are shielded by the league from discussing their work with the media.

Still-active Delaney has, telling ESPN, "This is not the first time a known or convicted criminal has lied about me before the judicial system."

The Lakers went on to win the Game 6 in question, then won Game 7 of the conference series and eventually captured the 2002 NBA championship.

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that "after determining (California) state charges were not possible because of (a three-year state) statute of limitations (for felonies), the Los Angeles County district attorney's office has referred Donaghy's claims of NBA referee misconduct to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles," because they "may have more time to pursue a prosecution."

NBA commissioner David Stern has fully backed the generally highly regarded Bavetta and all the rest of his referees, suggesting Donaghy's claims are the desperate act of a criminal and rogue ref hoping to shave prison time.

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